Had a very weird thing happen this morning.

As many of you know, I had a bicycling accident about a year ago with an associated traumatic brain injury. I came home last August when I left the Shepherd Brain and Spine Center in Atlanta. Thanks very much.

So, yesterday I was hobbling around in the garage and working on removing the side mirror from my Old Saab. Every screw on the Old Saab is a six-point star screw, so I can’t use my normal US-type screwdrivers. Let me tell ya: forget the Deutschers. My money is on the Swedes anytime we’re talking about building a car. Or an airplane. Or anything. The recess was a little bigger than my biggest screwdriver and I remembered that I saw a package of new six-point screwdrivers in my shop and went to get them. My memory of seeing them was as clear as day. I could almost smell the plastic. I remember picking the package up and wondering if Scott, my brother-in-law, bought them to work on my car while I was in the hospital. I was pleased as could be with a warm fuzzy feeling and was looking forward to using them. To the best of my memory, they were on a pile of other things on my workbench, waiting to be moved to the garage and put away.

I unlocked the gate and went to the shop to retrieve the screwdrivers and saw there was nothing stacked on top of the bench. No pile of junk and no screwdrivers. I searched through everything, knowing they must be there. I’d seen them there.  Such a fresh and vivid memory has to be real. But they weren’t. I searched again, positive I wasn’t making it up, but they weren’t there. It dawned on me that, in light of my injury, I either dreamed it and my brain believed it to be true or my brain just made it up to fill in a blank. I was warned about both scenarios by the good folks at The Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Back in the house, I asked my wife if her brother bought screwdrivers to work on the car and she wondered what I was talking about. The experience was so weird. Vivid but weird.

Have ever had a vivid memory – something you would entirely rely on – only to find it’s not true? It’s a weird feeling. Like you left your head resting on a bench somewhere.

Since I’ve had my injury, I’ve become very interested in the brain and how it works. It surprises me to learn that most people who write about the brain consider our visual experience to be mostly imaginary. They don’t doubt the reality of material things, but strongly consider that few things are what they appear to be visually. Very odd!

So, trust yourself and trust others a little less. But give them the benefit of the doubt. Chemicals in the brain make a faux and fabulous reality just as easily as they do a mundane and boring one. Sometimes it’s hard too know which is which.


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